This weekend I completed my third trek up Yosemite’s famed Half Dome. Getting to the top of Half Dome requires a 17+ mile round trip hike that takes you from 4,062 feet at the base of the Yosemite Valley floor, up to the 8,842 feet summit. (Yes that’s 4,400 feet of elevation gain. To put that into perspective, the Empire State Building is 1,454 feet tall.)
I still remember finishing Half Dome for the first time in the summer of 2007 and thinking to myself, “ok, well that’s something I only need to do once.” I thought this because the hike is not only exhausting but a slight bit terrifying. The last 400 feet requires you to scale up the side of the top of the Dome, pulling yourself up a sketchy set of cables. And of course coming down is equally as terrifying. There have been many deaths on Half Dome and most of them have occurred when someone got tripped up on the cables.
But of course after a few years I forgot about the pain and terror, and decided that I wanted to drag my Dad up Half Dome. During the summer of 2009, I completed my second trek to the summit with father in toe and then let a few more years pass again before thinking about doing the hike another time.
By now however, due to congestion, an increase in deaths, and unsafe hiking conditions, Yosemite implemented a lottery program to gain access to the trail to complete the hike. Now only 400 hikers and backpackers are allowed on the trail to Half Dome each day and you better believe the lottery is competitive, especially for weekends. This spring I decided it was time to do the hike again and I threw my hat in the ring for a permit. Thankfully I scored one and this weekend the day finally came to subject myself (and a +1) to the torturous hike.
For as tiring and scary as I describe the journey up Half Dome, I should mention also that it’s beyond beautiful. On the way up you get to see two amazing waterfalls and by the time you’ve made it to 1.5-mile-to-go mark to the summit, you’re enjoying expansive, stunning views of the Sierra from high above Yosemite.
This year, I was joined by the company of one of my favorite people, the sun was shining, we were surrounded by happy hikers, and the day ended with pizza, Wild Cherry Pepsi and hot showers. I’m sure this wasn’t my last time hiking Half Dome but it will always stand out as a great day and a memorable hike that I will cherish, probably forever.